Finally, we have a list of 23 names to say a prayer to the Almighty with. I don't think any other country is a religious as Nigeria, and i say so because even when a man goes out to steal, he kneels down, looks to the heavens and says a prayer for a successful operation.
In footballing matters we don't act any differently, as we pray to God to give us victory, even when out team is as bad as a non-league team with no Coach. So, now we pray that even though our titans go to war with sticks and blunt swords, that they defeat the best of the best who come armed with the best carved swords, shield of steel and maybe Semi-Automatic Guns.
Lars Largerback only after the friendly game against Saudi Arabia, understood the magnitude of the task ahead of him, and must have for the first time thought, "I am in for a load of work". He had at first picked from a pool of over a million footballers of Nigerian decent scattered across the Planet a group of 30, who either didn't start at their clubs, got injured at the drop of a coin, played in the lowest quality of leagues, sat more on the bench than play on the side of possibles in training, or were in the most uninspiring of forms. Yes, we have them all. From home and abroad, he picked what was best available to him and we all prayed for the past season to end, for us to see our darling team in friendly games(something of a rarity).
After the sorry games, the Swede was left with the ominous task of picking 23 and leading his band to the biggest stage of World football. Funny though, that as usual, he was not the only one to decide on who would get on that list. We Nigerians, know fully well, that some names on the list represent interests from the Football Federation and we accept that it is either that happens, or we have a coach sabotaged at the World Cup.
It is curious though that the teams highest goalscorer through the qualifying campaign and a player sorely missed at the Cup of African Nations in January due to injury was dropped after getting back to match fitness and having playing time, yet the man who would most likely captain the team has not proven his fitness after being out for more than 7 weeks. Ikechukwu Uche brings spark to our slow and sometimes unskillful attack line, yet he won't be on the plane to South Africa. Along with him is the only other "Big Man" in the team. A player who can with his good pace run to goal and bully any defender with his huge frame and strength. Victor Anichebe is not the finished product yet, but his physical attribute and eye for goal places him ahead of Kanu Nwankwo in a team that would need to score goals against tough defensive opposition. The excuse that he had a cracked chin, has been waived away by his club as just a bruised chin would not help matters in anyway.
In midfield, its a wonder why a player who has no sort of ball control ability would be taken to the biggest show on earth. Sani Keita really has nothing to offer that team. He is bad at tackling, can't track an intelligent attacking midfielder, lacks positioning, can't control the ball to save his own skin and does not know what to do with the ball when he has it. To make matters worse Yusuf Ayila is also a player who runs into his own team mates, lacking the ability to open up the pack and also can't pass the ball out in the most decent way. The only bright sparks seem to be Dickson Etuhu, who held his own this past season in England and Europe, but just like a few others in the team has not replicated good club form for country, and Lukman Haruna who can go on to become a great, only if he can build on his temperament. The boy from AS Monaco, might just be the man to bring glory for the Super Eagles. Always looking to make a releasing pass for his strikers, unafraid to have a go when in front of the box and eager to put in the tackle for his team.
The teams defense is the greatest worry against quick attacking play,as such expected from Argentina and South Korea, and even the slow but effective set-piece play of the Greeks. Nigerians are hoping not to see Joseph Yobo, the most experienced of the lot in the starting line-up owing to his poor form(and it has been so long since otherwise). Shittu, even though he didn't get any sort of playing time for Bolton Wanderers all season, still gives his all for the Green Jersey, so it is hoped he and some other of either Rabiu Afolabi (Robocop) or Adeleye would pair with him in Central Defense.
The major disappointment though is the fact that no home-based player is in the team. Left for a good number of supporters, Gabriel Suswan who put up a good show in the only game he played for the team and having Bassey Akpan as third choice goalkeeper would have been a better option than the pair of Chidi Odiah and the Flappy Austin Ejide, respectively
We can now only go back on our knees to pray once again for a good outing at Africa's first WORLD CUP.
The final squad
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Bamidele Aiyenugba
Defenders: Taye Taiwo, Rabiu Afolabi, Chidi Odiah, Ayodele Adeleye, Danny Shittu, Joseph Yobo, Elderson Echiejile
Midfielders: Haruna Lukman, Mikel Obi, Kalu Uche, Yusuf Ayila, Dickson Etuhu, Sani Kaita
Forwards: Nwankwo Kanu, Osaze Odemwingie, John Utaka, Chinedu Obasi, Obafemi Martins, Obinna Nsofor, Yakubu Aiyegbeni.